Favorite travel apps and websites

Since I started traveling more often, I’ve cultivated a list of must-have apps and tools that have proven handy time and time again.

Navigation:

Here WeGo, previously HERE Maps, is my go-to map of choice for traveling. Since you can use it offline and can download country or city maps, it was perfect for whenever we had no data. This was extremely handy during our Europe trip, since we didn’t have any mobile wifi at all. (Note: Download the maps only when on WiFi as the maps can be data-intensive.)

Since I already asked the Airbnb property owner/hotelier for the address and instructions how to get there, I used the HERE app to figure out how to get to the location coming from where we disembarked. It was also helpful in checking if we were being brought to our destination with no tricky roundabouts that will rack higher taxi fares. I specifically remember using the app in Zürich, Geneva, and Paris, because the rentals were far away from the tram/train station.

And yes, thru HERE WeGo, we were able to pin the exact location of our Airbnb house rentals!

I think we would have been even more hopelessly lost without HERE WeGo! And with its offline functionality, it’s what we use whenever we’re driving somewhere unknown here in the Philippines. It’s actually the map app Kinah and I used when we flew an ultralight plane in Pampanga.

Google Maps is my go-to map for planning our walking tours before traveling. With its routing tool of adding multiple stops between destinations by car, bus, or by walking, and easy grab and move of locations, planning has never been so easy.

Sample walking tour of Munich
Sample walking tour of Munich

Google Maps also has an offline map tool, but it doesn’t allow for country downloads as easily as HERE WeGo.

In Europe, since we were traveling with a Eurail pass, the handies app for us was the Eurail Planner App (this is an affiliate link). This app works offline too. You can see all the train schedules for particular days, so you can adjust your day accordingly. When you input the train station you’re coming from and the destination, you will see the stops to the minute and all the train stations it will pass by. You will also see if there were class 1 cabins (our Eurail pass gave us first class passes to every train ride that has a first class cabin) and if there will be a restaurant on board. This was very handy for us since we didn’t keep to a strict time schedule, so we had more flexibility with our train travel. It definitely helped to lessen the stress!

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Innsbruck, Austria, to Munich, Germany

In the picture to the right is our train travel from Innsbruck, Austria, to Munich, Germany. This particular travel route did not require us to change trains anywhere in our journey (other time slots may require you to change trains). The app uses the original spelling, so expect to see Muenchen for Munich, Zuerich for Zürich, etc. HBF means Hauptbahnhof, which is what they call a major train station.

In this particular travel itinerary, it states that there are first-class and second-class seats and a restaurant, you can bring your bike (I think for a fee), and you can reserve a seat. Not all train travels require a reservation, so we didn’t reserve. We just boarded the train, picked a seat, and stowed away our luggage (nobody will help you carry your luggage so make sure you can manage it, unless some helpful soul pities you).

In trains like this, where it says a reservation is possible on part of the journey, there are carriages with partitioned rooms. Check that your chosen carriage is not reserved, or that it is reserved after your journey (if you’re disembarking before the train’s destination).

I actually stepped off the platform during one of the train rides, just to tell myself that I’ve been there! Hehe!

The app’s time changes with any train delays, and you’ll see your ETA and ETD to the minute, as well as the number of minutes the train will be stopping per station. You don’t have to worry about bathroom breaks, though, because all the regional trains have toilets on board.

Knowing all the train stops to your destination is particularly helpful, because in the terminal of your departure if you have multiple train changes, the display will only show the train stop where you will change trains, and not necessarily show your ultimate destination. For example…

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Munich, Germany, to Zurich, Switzerland

In our trip from Munich to Zürich, we had to make 2 train changes at Ulm HBF and Schaffhausen HBF. At Ulm, we had to look at the train board to find which platform IRE 3354 can be found, and we had 5 minutes to change trains. In Schaffhausen, we had 4 minutes to transfer to IC 183.

You can even see the map and the train moving on the map! If you’re just saving this for future use, you can click on the star so it will be part of the favorites. This will save you time too.

Within Paris, our Airbnb host recommended that we use the RATP app. The website link is in French, but recognizable download icons abound in the page (for iOS/Android/Windows users), but the app itself can be in English. You can choose your mode of transportation, and we kept choosing to use the bus since we’ve found that bus stops are nearer to the actual location than Paris’ beautiful Metro system.

From the RATP app, you can see the exact bus numbers you have to take, walking directions, the map of your itinerary. It will suggest the route based on the time you’re departing so you can get to your destination in the shortest time possible.

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It was superbly helpful when we went from our apartment to the Louvre, but since we had no internet, we got lost on our way home. Hehe! So it would be really helpful if you could plan your day, or just get mobile data while you’re in Europe!

Note-taking:

I use OneNote for all the trips I plan because it’s already installed on my computer and it just flawlessly syncs everywhere. I don’t have to install another program and I just have to memorize my Microsoft account. Plus, the notebook and sub-page feature and the way I can organize multiple trips without getting lost, copy and pasting from different sources and having the source automatically pasted by OneNote are very helpful. There’s also a color-coding by notebook feature, which I appreciate so it makes zeroing in on a trip easier.

And when I’m working on a different computer, I just log on to OneNote online. It quickly syncs to my phone too and works offline so I can easily look up information when on the go, without needing mobile data.

But when I’m already on the road and I need to take down notes, I use Google Keep. I know, I know, it seems like my data are scattered, but it’s a system that has worked for me! Google Keep are just for the little notes I have to take down or memorize since I don’t usually bring paper (but I bring a pen!) when on the road. However, since it’s not chock-full of features, it cannot replace my OneNote for travel planning.

I have tried Evernote before but I didn’t like that it was another program I had to install/download and that they offer limited capacity for free plans, whereas I get a lot of free bandwidth with OneNote and Google already.

It’s not exactly under “note-taking” but I’ve also started using TripCase. With all the trips I have been planning, all the schedules were getting jumbled in my head. I haven’t actually tried using it while on a trip, but I’m currently using it to list down all my trips by schedule so I can see at a glance while I have coming up. Although I already save all my scheduled trips in my calendar, it can get pretty jumbled with my other activities and tasks. With TripCase, I can see all my relevant bookings and flight details at a glance, in a helpful Timeline view.

Hotel bookings:

My go-to method is usually to book directly with hotels since they usually offer the best rates with hotel transfers. However, when we went to Europe, I had to use Airbnb (book thru this link and get P950 off when you sign up!) a lot because it was cheaper than booking hostels, plus we had the place to ourselves. This was a money-saver in Europe and really helped me stick to our P150,000/pax budget for 2 weeks. However, I still checked inns in the area because there are cases when booking an inn was more economical, not just in terms of pricing, but in its location.

Since Airbnb rentals are primarily residential, they can be far from the city center and can be more costly when it comes to time and public transportation. Be sure to read the location or ask the host before booking so you really know what you’re getting into!

Recently, I’ve booked with Booking.com (affiliate link) for an upcoming trip, since they offered very cheap room rates (sometimes cheaper than Agoda!), with free cancellation and breakfast. We’re going to be very tourist-y and will be going on several tours, and we’re not sure how fluent they are with English, that’s why we decided to go with hotels. For a six-day trip and only P3,250/pax for two hotels? That certainly was a steal.

Second, we booked the room before booking flights because we were waiting for cheaper air fare, so we needed a little flexibility in our booking. Thankfully we used Booking.com because we had to move our hotel booking by one date because flights ran out. No sweat! With their free cancellation and no booking fees, changing the dates via their app, on my phone, was quite a painless.

I’ve also used Dealgrocer (a total of fourteen coupons purchased so far since July 2015!), from T-House in Tagaytay to Fun Ranch in Alabang, to a chiro deal, to plenty of restaurants, to an overnight stay in Movenpick and Bluewater Maribago, both in Cebu. It’s one of my favorite go-to sites (as in I check every Monday for new deals!) and I wish I had all the money in the world to purchase more deals from them coz their partners are seriously awesome.

Lastly, I also book through Metrodeal.com because they also have awesome accommodation steals like a less than P4000 stay in Cebu for 4 adults with breakfast, and an overnight stay in H20 Hotel with access to Manila Ocean Park. Mostly, I book with Metrodeal when looking for budget accommodations.

 

Tip: Don’t forget to check with the hotel first if they have available rooms before you buy a coupon. Also, make sure there are no extra charges if you’re checking in on a Friday, Saturday, or holiday. Happy planning! 🙂

 

Do you have any recommended apps or websites you use when traveling or planning a trip? How do you plan your trips?

 

Some of the third-party links above are affiliate links. Clicking and booking through them will generate a small income for me, at no cost to you. These will help build my next travel fund and write more posts. Thank you! 🙂

One Reply to “Favorite travel apps and websites”

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